Hermaphrodite , (Gr. Mercury, and Venus), an animal or plant uniting in itself the sexual characters of the male and female. The name is derived from the fable of the union into one of the bodies of Her-maphroditus, son of Mercury and Venus, and the nymph Salmacis. There are two kinds of hermaphroditism, the spurious and the true; in the former there is only an appearance, from arrest or excess of development, of a union of opposite sexual characters; in the latter there is an actual coexistence in the same individual of more or less of both male and female organs. By far the largest number of cases of hermaphroditism, in man and the vertebrate animals, belong to the first class. They are simply cases in which the individual is in reality exclusively male or female, but some of the accessory genital organs are so changed, either by excessive or deficient growth, or by change of position, as to resemble the corresponding parts in the opposite sex. In the second class of cases, where real male and female organs coexist upon the same individual, either one or the other set of organs is incomplete or imperfectly developed.
According to the best authorities, no case has yet been known, in man or the higher animals, where the same individual presented simultaneously the complete male and female organizations. But true hermaphroditism is the normal type of sexual structure in almost all phanerogamic plants, the reproductive organs being either upon the same flower or upon different flowers on the same stock; and this condition is sometimes found as a monstrosity in dioecious plants. I Perfect hermaphroditism exists also normally in many invertebrate animals, as, according to Siebold, in the ctenophora among acalephoe; the cestodes (tapeworms) and trematodes among helminths; planaria; hirudinei (leeches) and lumbricini (earth worms) among annelids; some acephalous and cephalophorous mollusks; cirripeds among crustaceans; and the tardi-grada among arachnoids. It does not exist in insects, unless as a monstrosity. In some of these, as in the trematodes and planarioe, each individual may be self-impregnating, but generally the sexual act is accomplished by two individuals, respectively impregnating each other.